"InternetNZ (Internet New Zealand Inc) calls on the Government to urgently resolve problems with Section 92A of the Copyright Act, to prevent the cutting off of Internet access to innocent people and businesses, and disruption to business.
Executive Director Keith Davidson points to growing concern in the telecommunications and Internet industries at the proposed law. Section 92A is due to come into force on 28 February and will require the termination of Internet accounts on the basis of allegations of copyright infringement, potentially by-passing court involvement.
Davidson also notes little has been done to explain the implications of Section 92A to businesses in respect to their need to have a termination policy. “It is likely that most New Zealand businesses have never heard of Section 92A, yet any business that provides Internet access for its staff will be regarded as an Internet Service Provider and will need to implement a termination policy, prior to Section 92A coming law on 28 February.”
“What does the Government intend to do to educate New Zealand businesses as to these new obligations and how will they do that within the next 6 weeks?” he asks.
InternetNZ is a member of a Telecommunications Carriers’ Forum Working Party, which is working on a termination policy so that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can comply with the Act. InternetNZ is not convinced a reasonable solution can be found in the limited timeframe.
“A termination policy that meets the law will be very difficult, if not impossible to achieve, without compromising the rights of individuals and organisations to be regarded as innocent until proven guilty,” says Davidson.
“The TCF Working Party is working in good faith, but vague wording in the new legislation, and lack of reasonable protection for those expected to enforce it, make the Working Group’s task extremely difficult, and this does not bode well for the broader business community,” he says.
“Section 92A should not be brought into force. If the new Government remains committed to implementing it regardless of the concerns raised by many, it should still defer the commencement of the section by at least another two months to allow for the TCF Working Party to complete its work and for the Government to begin an extensive education programme for business.”
Davidson observes that even amongst right-holders the appropriateness of the new law is being questioned. A concerned group of artists has launched a petition to repeal the law saying they do not condone cutting off the Internet on the basis of allegation, despite the exhortations of the entertainment industries.
“This would appear to be an attempt to prop up a business model that has not been able to adapt to the Internet and where they are seeking legislative solutions to aid their failing business model. Forward-looking artists are realising that the Internet can be their ally and that new business models are evolving that benefit from and take advantage of it.”
Davidson says it is unreasonable to require Internet Service Providers to be unpaid policemen for the entertainment industry.
“ISPs already require their customers to obey the law with respect to Internet usage. They incur real costs with international traffic and are unlikely to receive any significant economic benefit from illegal downloading activities. Let ISPs get on with the business of developing decent high speed Internet access. Don’t force them to divert scarce resources into being unprotected enforcers of poor law.”